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USPS Only Cancelling About Half Of The Stamps On Incoming Mail. Why?

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New Member
United States
2 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   08:31 am  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add JD95072018 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Hello,

Great to find the forum!

First post, and I did a search and couldn't find this being discussed. If I missed it, I apologize for the duplication.

Background
I save all my stamped incoming mail. About a decade ago, I started noticing that some of them came with their stamps uncancelled. This seemed odd, and I realized that I now had three categories to keep separate - truly mint, used but not cancelled, and cancelled. The percentage of incoming stamped mail that arrives with uncancelled stamps has continued to grow over time.

Local, distant, charitable, bulk, large envelopes, small envelopes, postcards....this happens on every category and regardless of whether there is a USPS zip adhesive label on the bottom, or not.

As an experiment I recently saved all my incoming stamped mail for about a year. The count was 281 pieces: 153 uncancelled and 128 cancelled. 54% uncancelled.

Questions:
1) Does anyone know why this happens? Is it saving the USPS time/money, or? Years back I took some samples to the central post office and asked the clerks if there was some sort of UV cancellation being applied (they said not) and if they could shed any light on how/why these were getting through (no light shed).

2) How do folks handle these uncancellled-but-used stamps in their collections?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
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Edited by JD95072018 - 12/03/2022 08:32 am

Pillar Of The Community
United Kingdom
7030 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   08:40 am  Show Profile Check GeoffHa's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I'd say lack of cancellation is the norm in the UK. Really, unless you want an album full of unsightly bits of covers, there's not much you can do about them. If soaked, there's nothing to say that they went through the post.
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United States
8236 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   09:36 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Petert4522 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
JD, welcome to the forum. The answer to your question is a bit more complicated in the US because of a difference in mail handling. In all the uncancelled mail that you collected for a year did you notice what kind of postage was applied?
If it is regular First Class mail it should have been cancelled, but if it is "junkmail" it may not be cancelled.
The stamps that the post office issues for some classes of mail are not tagged, and thus are not automatically cancelled.
One such use is in the case of Non-profit mail, These mail pieces are delivered to the post office in large quantities and may use special untagged or precancelled stamps.
Does this answer your question, if only partially?


Peter
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United States
2 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   11:12 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add JD95072018 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Peter,

Thanks for the welcome and the response.

There were a bunch of uncancelled first-class stamps in the mix, including on envelopes that had passed through whatever process that puts the stickies with routing on the bottom edge - so machine-processed to that extent, but not cancelled as part of that handling. Mystery.

The bulk/non-profit/junk mail had some uncancelled and others cancelled.

Thanks also Geoff for your input. Sounds like the USPS is not alone here.
Snipping part of the covers to go into albums sounds undesirable to me, too.

Still curious as to the reasons post offices don't keep on top of cancellation. Practically speaking, not canceling today's "Forever" stamps seems really bad policy, if policy and not error it is.
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Valued Member
United States
58 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   5:09 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add YbT to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
That is OK, I am just happy to get 1/2 my mail lately. It is not the service it used to be. I.e., in the early part of the 20th century Manhattan had 2 deliveries per day. Ha!
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United States
3157 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   7:07 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"The bulk/non-profit/junk mail had some uncancelled and others cancelled."

The ones that were cancelled were probably postmark permit cancels applied by the mailing houses and not USPS.
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Valued Member
United States
416 Posts
Posted 12/03/2022   7:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add landoquakes to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I still get a lot of mail at work and first class letters get postmarked most of the time, flats (large envelopes) rarely do… they used to have large roller cancels, few post offices still use them… of course I see many sharpie cancels on those
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United States
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Posted 12/04/2022   03:27 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hy-brasil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The numbers are about what I get.

Uncancelled stamps were not uncommon on mail delivered to businesses, especially flats and packages, perhaps figuring that they wouldn't be reused. It also depends on the originating post office, since when I've ordered stamp supplies from one of the usual suspects, they've always been cancelled even when a full sheet was plastered over the front of box. Otherwise, I suspect they don't have the time or personnel to make sure packages gets cancelled.

Counter clerks don't cancel mail around here no mo' and don't even have a cancel device on the desk. They do check if anyone's plastered a dog's breakfast of old stamps on it to make sure enough postage is on it. Then, any package or flat just gets carried to the back. So there's one situation/place where mail probably never gets cancelled.

The last person in the chain that could cancel mail is the mail carrier, the object of hate dubbed the Marker Monkey. If the carrier has a lot of mail/is behind schedule/has the flu they're not going to take the time to check.

Per GeoffHa's comment, lately, I've been getting mail from the UK uncancelled. The new barcoded/QR coded definitives can only be used once since the code is unique for each stamp and are deleted from the active database when (or if?) scanned. It's not just for eliminating the current crop of forgeries. Old commemoratives can still be used, apparently.
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Edited by hy-brasil - 12/04/2022 03:28 am
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Posted 12/04/2022   3:18 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add erilaz to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Looking through the stamps I've clipped from international mail in the past few years, the repeat offenders for failing to cancel have been Australia, Finland, and France.
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United States
71 Posts
Posted 12/04/2022   9:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add bluejay2 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Possible explanations for the lack of cancellations on U.S. stamps: combining some of the above and some of my personal observations:
  • Stamps classified as "precanceled" have no further need for cancellation. These include "Nonprofit Org" stamps and "Presorted Std" stamps.

  • Some bulk mailer utilize First-Class Mail "Forever" stamps. Such mailers often use the modern flag stamp from rolls of 3,000 or 10,000. In my experience, this type of mail often fails to receive cancellation. Why? I theorize that said mail is processed with other bulk mail, and therefore the postmark/cancellation process is erroneously skipped.

  • I have observed that flats (aka large envelopes) are likely to skip the postmark/cancellation process.

  • Meter mail receives a location/date postmark without cancellation bars.

  • Computer-Vended Postage (Scott #'s have the CVP prefix) are sold at postal kiosks. These stamps are typically not canceled. However, the postal machines do add a location/date postmark without cancellation bars.

  • Some particular stamps seem problematic for not being canceled, especially the 2018 Peace stamp (Scott #5280). I theorize that the color was causing postal machines to misidentify it as either a meter or CVP.

  • In mid-October I noticed that a postal distribution facility was skipping the cancellation on a noteworthy percentage of the mail. The covers would receive the location/date postmark without cancellation bars. I did not research whether it was a single machine consistently failing to cancel or simply random bunches.

  • Are counterfeit stamps less likely to receive cancellation bars? (I do not know. I suppose if they are untagged this has potential.)


Again, these are just my observations and theories. I am not an expert on the subject.
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Posted 12/04/2022   9:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I don't think that the USPS cares that much about the potential of reusing stamps given the other issues of Chinese counterfeits and Fentanyl. Self-adhesives have made it that much more difficult to reuse stamps anyway. They are also facing a 600% increase in theft over two years. Blue Boxes are getting knocked off left and right as are regular mailboxes.
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Australia
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Posted 12/06/2022   9:25 pm  Show Profile Check KGV Collector's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add KGV Collector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Uncancelled stamps in Australia has become a huge problem. To be able to get postally used stamps out of the mailing system has slowed dramatically. Many uncancelled stamps in very recent kiloware is attracting large per kg prices by people who are not into stamps buying to resell the uncancelled stamps as their main area of profit.

Interesting uncancelled stamps it is a global issue.
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United States
13 Posts
Posted 12/08/2022   4:35 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Callon to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
That reminds me, my father told me recently that he's been getting mail every couple weeks from a certain charity that always includes a SASE to send them a donation in. He doesn't donate that way, so he started cutting the unused stamp off the envelope and affixing it, piece of the envelope stuck to it and all, to other mail he sends. I was skeptical the USPS would accept that, but he insists that he's used it to send rebate offers and he got his rebates, so the mail must have gone through.

That seems like a good reason for the post office to make sure they cancel stamps that are actually used.
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Posted 12/08/2022   4:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
That reminds me, my father told me recently that he's been getting mail every couple weeks from a certain charity that always includes a SASE to send them a donation in. He doesn't donate that way, so he started cutting the unused stamp off the envelope and affixing it, piece of the envelope stuck to it and all, to other mail he sends. I was skeptical the USPS would accept that, but he insists that he's used it to send rebate offers and he got his rebates, so the mail must have gone through.

That seems like a good reason for the post office to make sure they cancel stamps that are actually used.


How would the post office cancel the stamp from the SASE since it is sealed within an envelope when it arrives to your Father?
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Valued Member
United States
13 Posts
Posted 12/09/2022   10:40 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Callon to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Apologies, let me clarify. Obviously the stamp on a SASE isn't going to be cancelled. My thought was if they are failing to cancel a bunch of stamps that have been used to send mail, people could cut them off envelopes and reuse them in the same way he's cutting them off a SASE.

I guess I thought there was a chance the post office would notice something like that (a stamp with another envelope stuck to the back of it that's taped/glued to a second envelope) and not accept it, but maybe that's not practical for the postal service to detect.

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Posted 12/09/2022   5:24 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Hilarion to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Some months ago, I received an envelope franked with such a stamp (stuck on a separate bit of paper which was then glued to the envelope). Some postal employee did indeed notice it: the stamp was heavily cancelled with ballpoint pen, with the words "REUSED STAMP" written next to it. But the mailpiece was delivered normally, with no postage due. I still don't quite know what to make of that.

(The sender was not someone I knew personally, and I have no idea whether the stamp was in fact reused.)
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